LAHORE - The Lahore High Court (LHC) last week took up two important cases; one about medical education and the other about legal education. The proceedings of both cases reflect that we lack an admission policy and we have failed to develop a curriculum for quality education.

In the case related to legal education, an LHC full bench suspended the newly-introduced five-year LLB course, with permission to universities to continue the honours degree programme of legal education.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah passed the order on several petitions challenging the five-year programme. The bench allowed law colleges, both public and private, to restore the old three-year LLB programme at their campuses.

The court also directed stakeholders, including the Pakistan Bar Council, Punjab Bar Council, Law Commission, Higher Education Commission, universities and private law colleges to sit together and restructure the five-year LLB programme.

Now, the respondents are due to appear before the bench on August 10, with their replies about the curriculum and feasibility of the programme.

The Pakistan Bar Council, top regulatory body for lawyers, had extended LLB course’s duration from three years to five years in January last year, with directions to private law colleges and universities to stop evening programmes for law students. The PBC had also reviewed the Pakistan Bar Council Legal Education Rules of 1978 as well as Rules for Affiliation of Law Colleges and PBC (Recognition of Universities) Rules, 2015.

Legal advisers to public sector universities; counsels for the Pakistan Bar Council, Higher Education Commission and Law Commission and lawyers of the petitioners were present in the court.

Advocate Awais Khalid, legal adviser to the Punjab University, pleaded that the five-year honours programme should continue. He said there were flaws in the newly-introduced five-year programme, which should be removed, and syllabus should be improved.

The court accepted the plea of the Punjab University and allowed it to continue its five-year honours degree programme. The court maintained Punjab University Law College’s decision to refuse admission to students having 3rd division.

The Pakistan Bar Council however confessed during the arguments that there were flaws in the five-year LLB programme, as the syllabus had not been developed for this programme and future of many students was at stake. The PBC’s counsel said that rules of the council had flaws with regard to the newly-introduced five-year LLB programme. He regretted that first two years of students would go waste because they were not taught any legal subject during this period. Therefore, he said, if two-year BA programme is included in the five-year programme there should be no harm in continuing the three-year programme.

As the news about suspension of the five-year programme spread, it made law students happy. Some said the decision would save time and money and some said that monopoly of some people over legal profession would be over, as every eligible person would have access to legal education.

Over 60 law colleges affiliated with the Punjab University, Bahauddin Zakariya University and Islamia University Bahawalpur are imparting legal education throughout Punjab. Thousands of students are getting legal education at these colleges. Every college has 250 to 300 seats and charges Rs100,000 per student per annum. After restoration of three-year programme in the evening, students could save at least Rs200,000 and their precious time.

The suspension is for the time being as respondents are going to file feasibility reports on the programme and syllabus for the five-year course. Legal experts say the matter is sub judice and it is premature to say the five-year programme would be abolished. However, they appreciated the decision on evening classes.

A law officer of a public university said that many students who had enrolled in the five-year programme were worried about length of the course. They would continue five-year programme yet, he said, adding that they should not worry as their degrees’ status would be clear very soon.

On the other hand, the LHC last week allowed the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (PMDC) to implement its 2016 regulations for new admissions to medical and dental colleges.

Previously, the court had suspended the regulations when the PMDC was going to apply them retrospectively to 2016 admissions. The new regulations empower the University of Health Sciences (UHS) to do admissions to medical and dental colleges.

Private medical colleges and students had filed petitions against policies and regulations relating to admissions to medical and dental colleges.

Defending the PMDC regulations, counsel Noshab A. Khan contended that new regulations were made to ensure equality and transparency in admissions.

On the other side, the counsel for the colleges/students opposed retrospective implementation of new regulations. They said that colleges had conducted admissions before the PMDC introduced the central induction policy.

In this case, Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza had given several opportunities to petitioners (colleges) and the government to sit together and find a solution. However, they failed to reach a consensus and the 2016 admissions were done according to old regulations. The new policy remained suspended.

The Senate Standing Committee on Health Services had also proposed that the PMDC should consider implementation of 2016 regulations for next year admissions.

Justice Mirza disposed of the petitions and observed that PMDC could implement its policy for new admissions and colleges were free to approach the council in case of any grievance.

It was also learnt last week that lawyers/litigants could file cases in Bahawalpur and Principal Seat in Lahore in addition to Multan Seat of the Lahore High Court. A notification issued to this effect says Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah took the decision to meet a long standing demand of lawyers working in both districts. The bar associations of these districts had passed unanimous resolutions on the matter.

Lawyers of Lodhran had been demanding detachment from Multan seat of the LHC owing to long distance compared to Bahawalpur. Same is the case with lawyers of Sahiwal. However, the LHC chief justice, instead of detachment, decided that cases of Lodhran and Sahiwal can be filed in Bahawalpur and Principal Seat in Lahore in addition to Multan seat.

FIDA HUSSNAIN